Students Storm Duke’s Administration Building, 1969

On February 13, 1969, African American student activists at Duke University occupied the school’s main administrative building. The takeover of the Allen Building was sparked by the slowness of racial reform at the university.

Black undergraduates were not admitted to Duke until 1963. In the mid-60s, the Afro-American Association formed on campus, influenced by the Black Power movement. By early 1969, the Association and its supporters had become impatient with the progress of promised reform.

Early on the morning of February 13, a group of black students took over a portion of the Allen Building and issued 11 demands for change.

White students sympathetic to the protesters soon gathered outside. The administration negotiated with the occupiers and agreed to most of the demands, but gave the protesters only an hour to accept their offer and leave or face arrest.

The students in turn threatened to burn the university’s records, but eventually complied. The takeover ended as police tear gassed the white students outside.

None of the occupiers were expelled from school, though many were put on probation. Continuing frustration with the process of change at Duke led to the creation of the short-lived Malcolm X University in Durham later in the year.

Many items from the Allen Building Takeover Collection at Duke University have been digitized and are available online.

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